Hanes chief branding officer Sidney Falken has been with the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based firm for 23 years, originally starting out as an assistant marketing manager for its boys underwear division when George Herbert Walker Bush was POTUS.
Of course, the world has changed dramatically since those days, and Falken recently spoke with Adweek to discuss how she is moving the brand forward with online video, social media and—yes, TV ads—in a space that's become particularly competitive in terms of men's undergarment items. (Hanes offers women's underwear and apparel as well.)
There are emerging players like Mack Weldon, Uniqlo, MeUndies.com and Miroslav Underwear—not to mention the product iterations and advertising firepower of well-known brands like Calvin Klein as well as decades-old rival Fruit of the Loom.
"There are lot of new players and interesting things going on," Falken said. "There's been a lot of innovation, and there are a lot more choices for men than a few years ago. It's really kind of exciting—even the competition is exciting. It makes people think differently about the category."
Here are excerpts from our interview with the marketing exec:
How does Hanes stay cutting edge in this new environment?
We have over a hundred years in the category, and we have a real dedication to innovation. We are committed to raising the bar, particularly to comfort innovation because that's what the brand is known for. We have incredible designers and a great research-and-development team that are constantly creating new programs, including ones that we are currently excited about and others that are in the works.
Is Hanes' marketing calling card still television? Or are you migrating towards digital like some brands seem to be?
That's something affecting everybody—us included. We still spend a lot of money on TV because it's a great way to reach a broad audience that we need to connect with. But increasingly, we are shifting dollars and resources to digital and social. There are now a lot of exciting ways to connect with our consumers that just didn't exist about 10 years ago.
Is your spend increasingly going into online video? Or is the focus more on social or mobile?
It's a little bit of all of the above. We are trying a lot of different things and learning as we go.
Hanes has 2.7 million Facebook fans, which is good number for your category. (Fruit of the Loom, by comparison, has just 400,000 Facebook fans.) Has that been an organic build-up or did you put spend towards that audience?
A bit of both. We have seen some growth in the last couple of years with paid media. But a lot of it has been organic. We engaged a new digital agency, 360i, and we've been focused on organic while refining our voice to connect with consumers in the social space.
Last month, you put out four branded, fun-minded videos. They didn't take the world by storm, but the effort seemed to garner more than a few views at the same time.
We tapped into the idea that guys love destruction videos. And we really liked the contrast in concerns to the softness of our products with the mayhem in the spots. We thought it was a fun, creative idea.
How do you feel about the results? And was there any paid media behind it?
We did have some paid media. We actually had close to eight million views. We feel really good about that. It's about where we wanted to be.
The return-on-investment on Web videos like these has to be pretty good, doesn't it?
We feel pretty good about it. Sometimes it's hard to put a value on engagement because we are trying to create an opportunity to have a conversation with guys in a different sort of way than we typically do. And these videos are a good example of how to do that.